The fact that there is a ‘skills gap’ in the UK’s technology and engineering sectors has been firmly established. The most recent stats are alarming, with the Open University revealing that the nation’s skill shortage costs the private sector an estimated £6.3bn every year. From government level down to the smallest start-ups, there is huge debate and discussion over how to close it. The scale of the challenge can make it feel insurmountable, but what if we took a step back from the policy and focused on simple solutions that we as businesses can use to plug the ‘hiring hole’ here and now?
At Gumtree, we employ a large team of developers and tech specialists to work on our platform and feel the impact of demand for skilled professionals monumentally exceeding supply. Even our leafy riverside location in Richmond – and the additional opportunities offered by being part of eBay Inc and the eBay Classifieds Group – is not always enough to tip the balance.
Time and time again you’ll see a news reports blaming the low number of students taking up STEM subjects as the reason why the skills gap in industry is getting larger. But the exponential growth of the UK’s digital economy was always going to produce a gap of sorts.
It is our job, as UK businesses looking for the best and brightest talent, to promote roles within the sector. Gumtree isn’t alone in doing this; nevertheless, just buying a ping pong table, providing free coffee and sleep pods is no longer enough to lure top developers. Neither can we just turn on a tap and flood the market with STEM-educated students and qualified graduates with sought after degrees.
This is why we knew we had to take a different approach. Rather than getting bogged down by the supply side of the skills gap, we shifted our attention to more immediate, simple solutions.
One of the largest obstacles we uncovered is how businesses like ourselves were continuing to use traditional recruitment methods, somewhat ironically, in a sector defined by innovation. From talking to our team, we realised that processes such as disciplined CV reviewing and basic interview rounds had been putting the best candidates off applying.
From this insight, we trialled peer programming, where we invited candidates to our offices to do some real-life tasks with their potential new colleagues. This method has largely grown because coding is an experience-led skill, and is something that cannot be replicated by any interview or CV.
The results speak for themselves. In the last half of 2017, we managed to shorten our hiring process from an average of 60 days to just 11. Being able to turn around a hire in less than two weeks saves not only money, but time and energy. We aren’t naïve to the fact that developers are hot property and are likely to come and go – but if we can fill open rolls more effectively we can concentrate on growing our business.
Instead of complaining about the lack of graduates coming out of university, you should view the “hiring hole” as an opportunity to make your business a more attractive and appealing workplace. Think creatively about methods to make the best out of a challenging situation – and why not try something different. We did, and it’s worked well for us.
This article was written by a Gumtree spokesperson